South Routt Schools Get Bailout As Coal Company Struggles

Colorado's state board of education has emptied its emergency fund to help a 300-student district caught up in a giant coal company's financial woes.

The board voted 7-0 Thursday to put all its $1 million in reserves at the disposal of the South Routt district, which learned last month that Peabody Energy failed to make a property tax payment. Peabody filed for bankruptcy protection in April.

A department of education official said shortly before the board voted that the plight of the northwestern Colorado district is the kind of situation for which reserves are designed. The department will now ask the state legislature to replenish the fund. South Routt will be expected to repay the money if Peabody pays its taxes, but that could take years.

In related news, Peabody Energy is asking a bankruptcy court to allow it to pay property taxes across the country, saying its failure to do so has been a burden on jurisdictions where the mining giant was the key taxpayer.

In a motion filed earlier this week in federal court in St. Louis, Peabody says it had incurred nearly $30 million in property taxes. In a statement emailed to The Associated Press Friday, the company says it expects its request to be heard later this month.